A D2C entrepreneur and a tea connoisseur, Mayura Rao, founder of Ausum shares her daily practises for dealing with the unexpected challenges of running a D2C business.
(Mayura Rao enjoying a cup of Ausum's signature blue-pea herbal tea while showing us the extensive line of plant-based teas, lattes, and functional stress relief super bars.)
If you've been hooked on Shark Tank India, you'll be excited hearing terms like D2C, Entrepreneurship, Valuation, Branding, and even Supply chain management. The Indian D2C industry is exploding every second with new unicorns, hustlers a.k.a. entrepreneurs, high-profile inventors, and billionaires. Entrepreneurship can be challenging! Finding an exciting, unique idea, executing it, and remaining motivated throughout the process becomes a task over time.
In an exclusive interview with D2C Entrepreneur Mayura Rao, we learn about her daily activities that keep her on-her-toes and the business moving forward.
1. Do you have a morning ritual that you strictly adhere to in order to have a productive day?
Productive days begin with visualising what I want, how I am going to get there and the fun I’ll have along the way. I focus on habits that I want to reinforce and habits I want to break. Mornings are ideal for assessing, reaffirming, and building. I naturally get up before 5 a.m. and have the most creative energy in the morning. I have my best days when I can centre myself before the chaos of the day begins and the to-do lists begin to fly around in my head. I enjoy the hour of quiet time, to physically and mentally prepare for the day's challenges. With a cup of hot water, I start with a self-affirmation - “Mayura, you have got this. No fear!”
2. What tools and platforms do you use on a daily basis to automate marketing, supply chain and inventory management, sales, and customer service tasks?
As we grow, we understand how important systems and processes are in ensuring that the day-to-day operations run smoothly while the team focuses on new ideas and solutions. Every morning, I take a quick look at dashboard apps to see how I did the day before.
"The supply chain is key for a D2C brands as distribution is critical. We rely heavily on Amazon and Brand Commerce. My phone's Seller and Shopify apps are one-stop shops for key metrics to track run rates and inventory levels across all of our warehouses." - Mayura Rao, Ausum India
Sell through and demand creation is my next stop. Shopify gives me the high-level metrics of ACOS, CPC, Spends etc. I look at Facebook, Google analytics apps for a deeper understanding with the team along with Amazon marketing panels. All of our marketing data is routed through a personalised dashboard we built in Google Sheets.
Zoho manages all of our administration, from sourcing to accounting. We recently integrated WhatsApp shopping, so the WhatsApp dashboard is my final stop.
3. Which supply chain/marketing activities do you prioritise on a daily basis to ensure smooth operations while managing scale?
Tracking run rates, so we stay on top of our daily targets. The same applies to tracking the corresponding spends. The interesting aspect of a digital-first brand's demand generation is that some results can be seen on a daily basis (brand building aside). As a result, keeping an eye on the input-output equation is critical.
4. How do you ensure that your best-selling SKUs are always in stock? Do you go through your inventory on a daily basis? If yes, how?
Yes, we check inventory levels on a daily basis because the downside of "Out of Stock" is losing money. If inventory issues arise after we get on a customer's radar, there is more money left on the table. We don't have hundreds of SKUs like the fashion industry to keep the customer occupied. Our customers in our industry know exactly what they want.
To track the inventory we have at any given time, we look at the last 12 weeks of run-rate. We currently operate 4 warehouses. The key for us is to identify projected daily run rates for the next 4 weeks and map them to the warehouse level, ensuring that each customer's order is delivered on time.
5. Which social media channel do you constantly monitor for new ideas, trends, and insights to help you improve your marketing strategies?
Instagram is a great source of inspiration for us as well as a good gauge of consumer sentiment. Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to find insights and strategies that other leaders are using. These platforms also help me in discovering tools to automate processes and share information more easily both internally and externally. YouTube is a learning tool that allows Ausum to see how others are doing things better and what Ausum can learn from them.
6. On a daily basis, which teams/departments do you work with? What role do you play in these discussions?
Because we are a small, flat team, I tend to interact with the majority of people on a daily basis. My day begins with a stand-up call with my head of marketing and operations. These calls are mostly for me to listen in order to understand how their activities are progressing and where I need to intervene and change their priorities. This then cascades down to other team members' tasks. Marketing and brand activities are central to our business, and these interactions include brainstorming and idea sessions. I aim to set the direction once a week and give the team the freedom to operate and experiment with their individual agendas.
7. Which books/podcasts/people, etc., have positively influenced your daily habits?
Brené Brown is a must-have for me. Dare To Lead, her podcast (of the same name), and her accompanying videos have had a profound impact on my thinking. When I'm driving, I listen to Neil Bhatt's 'Gita for Daily Living,' less for the religious context and more because his interpretation of the Gita helps me deal with challenges at work and in life. Another influence in understanding my relationship with money, success, and happiness is Naval Ravikanth. Gabriel Weinberg's 'Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth' is currently on my reading list.
8. Which platform do you prefer for expressing yourself and connecting with others?
LinkedIn is my go-to platform, and I'm working with my team to develop my point of view on this platform. The constant goal is to devote more time to this than I currently do! I try to spend about 30 minutes per day thinking about content and interacting with people in and out of my sphere.
9. Do you think it's important to unplug and enjoy some downtime from work?
(Mayura Rao believes in women's empowerment and has hired & trained an entire manufacturing team of unskilled ex-domestic workers)
Creativity doesn’t stem from hours at work or in front of the computer screen, tapping away. For me, it comes with interactions with friends & acquaintances virtually and physically and with some boredom sprinkled in. I'm sucked into the need to be always utilitarian. I've discovered that doing nothing (literally nothing) helps me generate ideas and spring me into action. Productivity is a metric best defined by oneself so it's not about the number of hours of being “switched on”.
I tend to have 12 hours of constant interactions on a typical day and I am usually wound up tight like a top by the end of it! I look for non-verbal interactions to unwind! Since Covid, I've been enjoying an episode of a podcast or a chapter of a book on Audible while taking a walk post-dinner or reading mystery novels. Escaping into an alternate reality is a perfect way to decompress. I love making things with my hands so I work on studio pottery pieces to bring out my creative side where I am not constantly problem-solving!
(Unplug, unwind and recharge with The Ausum Collection. Check them out on www.getausum.com and @getausum on Instagram)
10. What is the one thing you would advise future D2C entrepreneurs to incorporate into their daily routines?
"Time for reflection and introspection. In this age, we are constantly reacting and consuming. There is little time to think and internalise unless we force it. Spend some time with yourself. It’ll do wonders!" - Mayura Rao, Ausum India